The Twentieth Season Finale.
Mack Goldsbury, Duane Durrett, and the Texas Organ Connection featuring guest vocalist Sandra Kaye.
- Mack Goldsbury, saxophone
- Duane Durrett, drums
- Thomas Burchill, guitar
- Clyde George, Hammond B3 organ
- Sandra Kaye, featured guest vocalist
Introduction by Johnny Case
The profiles found in this section represent exclusively those musicians and singers with whom I have performed on recordings listed in the above discography. Some artists may appear both in this section and in the series of blogs spotlighting musicians. When I first realized that my website would allow space for acknowledgements to musicians of merit with whom I’ve recorded, there was no question about which performers would be featured, the only question was whom I’d like as the first to appear. Although Duane Durrett was not the first musician who came to mind, it was when my thoughts turned to him that my quandary disappeared. Nothing could have been more clear to me than placing him first among many to follow.
Duane is a model of human integrity in how he found the perfect balance between family life and dedication as a performing artist and music educator. He has refused to sacrifice his art in which he always strives for its highest expression and has likewise maintained the ideal standards as husband and father. As performer and teacher, he has consistently encouraged young, talented students of America’s native art form. By his own example, he has served as a source of inspiration to countless performers who now continue the tradition of modern jazz. This is the legacy of Duane Durrett, my friend and musical associate for many years. I asked Duane for his biography, which he has written expressly for this website. While I will contribute most of the profiles to follow, this first one is Duane’s story told in his own words.
“I was born July 23, 1946 in Weatherford, Texas. There were no musicians in my family that I am aware of, but my dad played piano by ear and loved music. There was always music of some sort in our home. We lived in the country (Punkin’ Center, to be exact) and I grew up with lots of land to explore on my horse. Back at home my mom and dad would have local players come in to play. Lots of good food prepared by my mother and lots of great music played on our piano along with local guitar players and singers. At that time there were not the musical categories that today’s music all falls into. Gospel, folk, western, standards were all the same, just good music. I actually remember at a very early age (2 or 3) hearing the Chuck Wagon Gang singing on the radio. I had to be around that age as I also remember where we lived at that time.
“Around the age of eight I stated taking piano lessons from Mrs. Frady, who lived with her husband across the pasture on the Fort Worth highway. I had always played the piano by ear and was always able to pick out my favorite tunes. One strange event, but not too strange for Punkin’ Center, was on my way to my piano lesson with Mrs. Frady, I had to cross the pasture. Lying across my path was a good size rattlesnake. I stopped, put my piano book down, and proceeded to kill the snake. There was an abundance of rattlesnakes at that time on Punkin’ Center hill.
“Around age 13 we had moved in closer to town and around that time I had started using hatboxes and pots for drums. I was listening to all kinds of music, but was drawn to R & B. It was just all music to me and I was attracted to the feel of the music. One day in the car with my mother I heard Ray Charles singing, “What’d I Say.” The rhythm captured me and I knew there was something there that I had to learn. It was very similar to a religious awakening. Soon my dad bought me a set of drums for fifty dollars.
“Around the ninth grade I got to know guitarist Jim Shannon and eventually started playing in a band with Jim and others. We were playing at the youth center for parties and anything that we could. Not long after we were playing bars in Mineral Wells and then on the Jacksboro Highway. I wasn’t telling my parents where I was playing all the time. My senior year I was playing three nights a week with saxophonist Lon Price, pianist Eddie Miller and Clayton Cox on bass on the Jacksboro Highway. I can’t remember the name of the clubs, but it was great experience.
“Also in high school, Jim Shannon introduced me to Raymond and Clyde George, who had a band called Little Eddie and the Rays in Weatherford. They were playing all of the R & B and jazz that was popular at the time. This was when I first heard organist Jimmy Smith, and again I was blown away with music I had never heard. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that was it. Again, a life-changing event.
“I started being a regular at the George’s upholstery shop in Sandtown where they rehearsed. A lot of listening and watching had to happen before I finally was asked to start playing with “Eddie and the Rays.” We were rehearsing almost every night and eventually began working steady in the Fort Worth and Dallas jazz clubs. During the 60’s there were great clubs with jazz. One of the first I was introduced to was the Flamingo Club on Evans Avenue in Fort Worth. Organist Flo Greene, drummer Bob Stewart, Flo’s husband Sonny Greene on vocals, and guitarist Raymond George and then Jim Shannon were the group. There was jazz almost every night with a Sunday session that drew the best players. James Clay, David Newman, Marchel Ivery, Red Garland, bassist Charles Scott, pianist Thomas Reese, Willie T. Albert and Robert Williams on trumpet and others were always there for these great sessions. I was not the regular drummer, but would get to sit in on these serious learning sessions. Many times I would want to quit playing based on what I heard and how I stacked up against these professional musicians. However, one time after sitting in I was encouraged by Ornette Coleman, who was there with his sister Trudy, to keep playing the music.
“I attended North Texas State University beginning in the fall 1966. I didn’t make a band that year, as I was not a good reader. I put in the time and the next year I was the drummer in the 3 o’clock band. I made many musical friends at NTSU. Mack Goldsbury, Randy Lee and many more were, and remain, close musical ties. I left college before attaining my degree, but did eventually go back and finish.
“Along with the Rays, who were working 3 and 4 nights a week at clubs like the Malibu and other places with Clyde, Raymond, and usually with James Clay or David Newman, Mack Goldsbury or Marchel Ivery, I was working with big bands coming through the area like Ralph Marterie, Les Elgart and others. Also, I started working some shows with Moe Billington at the Hyatt House in Dallas. I was subbing for Banks Dimon and Dale Cook and staying busy every night. Around this time Raymond George and I signed on to make a short tour of east Texas with Hank Crawford. This was the chitlin’ circuit for sure. Somewhere out there we headlined for Little Milton, who had just put out his hit, “More and More”, which has a very tasty and driving drum part. I can’t remember the drummer’s name, but I didn’t want to play after he got through that night. Another lesson. During this time the Rays became the house band at the famous Sunday sessions at Woodman Hall in Dallas. Many jazz greats, such as Joe Williams, Billy Harper and others would show up when they were in town.
“Back in Fort Worth, along with the Rays, I was playing jobs with pianists Johnny Case and Jack Murphy (Dallas), James Clay, some traveling with David Newman and with an incredible pianist living in Dallas, Freddie Crane.
“In 1971, I married Anita Swain, who has been the solidifying force in my life. She is responsible for any stable success I have achieved. We have two lovely daughters, Stephanie and Rebecca. I was called by James Clay on Sunday night before Rebecca was born on the following Friday (August 2, 1974) to join the Ray Charles Orchestra. Nita had a troubled pregnancy and so I told James to contact drummer John Bryant. John joined the band and stayed for several years.
“Not long after Nita and I married, the music business took one of its nosedives. I had worked full-time as a musician, but now was faced with not as many jobs and a growing family. I didn’t want to stay on the road, so I was working for my dad running a truck stop for a couple of years and playing at night. The jazz scene had changed, although there were still clubs like the Recovery Room featuring jazz. My neighbor, who worked for Weatherford College, asked me if I would be interested in working on a grant at the college with the purpose of recruiting students. It was to last for three months. That was forty years ago. I began by using the pep band as a starting point for hopefully creating a college jazz band, and with it, recruit students. I directed the band for 15 years (1975-1990). It started being a good band when I was able to recruit students from the famed Houston Kashmere High School. Saxophonist Terrance Tony, who later worked with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. This is the beginning of a respectable list of young musicians who went on to work with Wynton Marsalis, Ray Charles, Ray Price, Les McCann, Miranda Lambert, Roy Hargrove, Box Car Willie, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Frank Foster, Snarky Puppy (Grammy Winners) and many more including all the local greats such as James Clay and David Newman.
“The process of building an award-winning band is not easy and doesn’t come overnight. I was blessed to have directed some great young musicians, those referred to above, and others who are successful in other professions. The years of 1986 through 1990, which was my last year as director, had the band performing at the Caravan of Dreams and many other locations as it prepared to perform on big band night at the 1987 Montreux Jazz Festival with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Orchestra. Our band was the first two-year college to be chosen for that special night of great jazz. The band was a hit and had Dizzy dancing in the wings. The next year the band was featured at the National Association of Jazz Educators annual conference in San Diego.
“In 1990 the Rays were featured at the Utrecht (Netherlands) Jazz and Blues Festival where Raymond, Clyde and I, along with Marchel Ivery (replacing James Clay who had gone over early and had fallen and was unable to make some of the concerts), and vocalist Malcolm Robertson performed along with other jazz and blues greats. About this time I also had started working with saxophonist Dewey Redman. I worked with Dewey for about two years, but only in Texas. I also played several concerts with Fort Worth native Billy Thom Robinson in the mid 90’s in a quartet with pianist Thomas Reese and bassist Charles Scott. Several other gigs of note during those years were a concert with guitarist Kenny Burrell (Roger Boykin, piano and James Gilyard, bass) and a two-week gig with Clark Terry and Red Holloway. Those two weeks culminated at the wedding of Clark Terry, where I played with jazz legend bassist Milt Hinton as part of the wedding. A party followed the wedding with many jazz greats there for New Orleans cooking and jazz all night.
“I continue to work as much as possible. I have worked with Kelly Durbin, Lou Harlas and Mack Goldsbury in the Texas Connection and have recorded two CDs under that name. Also, Johnny Case and I started the annual Tribute to James Clay at Arts 5th Avenue in September. 2015 will be the sixth year and it is always a joy to play with all the great friends and hear great stories told about our mentor, James Clay.
“Hopefully, this story is a long way from its end with lots of great music to be played. Music changed my life in a very good way. The friends who I share and have shared bandstands with and the many different people and places I have got to know and experience are blessings. If you ever experience the thrill of swing, you know what I mean. Peace.”
Duane Durrett 4-27-15